Opinion: The Rot Is Deep (Part I)

L-R: RADM Green, GEN Scot (7-Days In May) LTC Vindman

The rot is deep in my beloved Military. When a relatively junior Military Officer can take it upon himself to determine that the President of these United States is “not acting within U.S. policy,” we have some serious problems…problems far greater than some senior Flag Officer feeling his oats.

Last week, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, an Army Officer temporarily detailed to the National Security Council, was relieved of his duties and escorted out of the White House and off the grounds. This was ostensibly as part of a normal rotation, but more likely for defying the President and Commander in Chief, of whom he serves at the pleasure.

Of course, the left has clasped LTC Vindman to their collective bosom, decrying the “vindictiveness” of the President. However, over at Real Clear Politics, the ever-lovely Betsy McCaughey pointed out back in November why (in my book) it would become necessary to relieve Vindman who represented a clear and present danger to our Constitutional Republic. Ms. McCaughey writes (emphasis mine)

The scariest aspect of Vindman’s testimony is his insistence that U.S. foreign policy should be made by unelected bureaucrats like himself. Vindman says he and his colleagues have formulated “the best, most informed judgment” about Ukraine and it wasn’t “appropriate for government officials” like Trump’s ambassadors to act “counter” to it. What arrogance.

Read: Vindman’s Claims Don’t Hold Up

“Arrogance” isn’t the half of it, Madam. Like any large organization, the U.S. Military has its share of folks promoted past their skill, experience and maturity level. This is especially true in Vindman’s case. However, this is much more than an immature, arrogant Field Grade Officer** promoted beyond his abilities and exhibiting some minor incidents of poor judgment and delusions of adequacy. This is endemic of a deeper problem.

Over at The U.S. Naval Institute, Captain Bill Bray, U.S. Navy (Retired) has an excellent piece out on the significance of a military officer’s commission. He writes (again, emphasis mine)

The officer commission does not exist simply to distinguish the military’s executive class from a technical labor force. The nation could accomplish that without commissioning its officers. Nor does the commission describe the type of work officers and enlisted do. They often perform similar or identical tasks, especially in the information age. Instead, the U.S. officer commission is a constitutional imperative and must be understood in both legal and professional contexts.

Captain Bray goes on, in a very well put together paper, to delve into the details of the history and reasoning behind Presidential Commissions, both military and civilian. You can see the entire article HERE: Read: Know What An Officer Commission Means

Note the words I emphasized, “constitutional imperative.”

While we consider those words, let’s have a look at one Military Officer’s Commission, mine.

Opinion: The Rot Is Deep (Part I)

Here’s the text, reformatted for this medium

The President of the United States of America

To all who shall see these presents, greeting:

Know ye that, reposing special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities of Michael Anthony Ford, I do appoint him a Second Lieutenant, Regular Army in the United States Army to rank as such from the 28th day of May, 1980. This officer will therefore carefully and diligently discharge the duties of the office to which appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging.

And I do strictly charge and require those officers and other personnel of lesser rank to render such obedience as is due an officer of this grade and position. And this officer is to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as may be given by President of the United States of America, or other superior officers, acting in accordance with the laws of the United States of America.

This commission is to continue in force during the pleasure of the President of the United States of America for the time being, under the provisions of those Public Laws relating to Officers of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and the component thereof in which this appointment is made.

Done at the City of Washington, this 28th day of May, in the year of our Lord, 1980, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred fourth.

By the President

Returning to Captain Bray,

The framers did not see the commissioning of officers as a power the President could and should wield at his discretion, but rather a responsibility he must properly bear. Thus, the President could be held fully accountable for his constitutional responsibilities as the nation’s executive. Indeed, in 1926 the solicitor general argued successfully before the Supreme Court that all commissioned officers are an extension of executive power.

“Commissioned Officers are an extension of executive power.” Got that? Commissioned Officers do under the authority of the President, what he would do himself, were he capable of being in every place at once. Commissioned Officers do his bidding and execute his policy, not the other way around. This is the point that LTC Vindman, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and a host of other military and civilian “interagency” denizens cannot — or more likely, refuse — to understand.

Their positions exist to support the President. Not the other way around. The President decides U.S. policy, not some unelected “interagency.” The commissions they hold are so they can exert Presidential power on behalf of The President and according to his policies and guidance. Anything they tell him is either information or a recommendation. He decides. The very idea that a commissioned Army Officer could in sworn, public testimony, state that the President of these United States was acting against U.S. policy, should be appalling to all Americans.

Here is the piece of this that is the most bothersome. As I noted right out of the gate, LTC Vindman isn’t some 4-Star General who, believing he is professionally bulletproof, allows his staff to badmouth the sitting President to Rolling Stone magazine. This is a relatively junior officer who believes his judgment is better than personnel 8 levels above him, 9 counting the President. How that happened—and it’s not a “one-off;” it is, however, the subject of Part II. Stay tuned.

**Field Grade Officers out in troop units, are considered “high ranking.” In organizations such as the Pentagon or the National Security Council, they are considered very junior.

Mike Ford
Mike Ford, a retired Infantry Officer, writes on Military, Foreign Affairs and occasionally dabbles in Political and Economic matters. 
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